Thursday, June 03, 2010

Marathon to Little Farmer's Cay Exumas - Escape from the Boot Key Triangle

I am sitting in the cockpit and the air is almost still. Pat is below putting dinner together and I will set the table for a quiet supper al fresco. There is just a whisper of a breeze, but it is sufficient to bring the temperature to a very pleasant 80 degrees. A full moon is rising out of the dim shape of Highbourne Cay and the water in our anchorage is so clear that the bottom is visible 20 feet below. I have heard the cliché about water so clear that it is difficult to tell the difference between the sky and the water, but I never believed it until now.

Tonight is the reward for the last few weeks of the trials and tribulations we had to overcome in order to get away from the US. When we were in Marathon, we often heard about people who came for a month or two and were still there after several years. Sometimes it happens because Marathon is just a really laid back place to hang ones hat, and other times it happens because the boat is in need of repairs and either the lack of funds or the maybe tomorrow attitude conspire to create terminal sloth.

For Pat and me, we arrived in Marathon last October with the intention of spending the winter before heading towards points south. It was a good plan because the winter of 2010, was one of record cold temperatures and generally unpleasant weather conditions. Our hearts go out to the minions who were on fixed schedules, and who had to get their cruising itch scratched within the confines of a single sailing season. I’m sure they eeked out some satisfaction, but not without incurring some serious challenges along the way. As we listened to the frustration building from the sabbatical crowd, Pat and I were smug in the fact that we had the luxury of time, and that we had a plan to wait until everybody left before we headed out.

Cruising as we have found out is one of those activities where patience is usually rewarded and type A do it now type behaviour can create some serious problems. It took us awhile, but Pat and I have both weaned ourselves from wearing wrist watches, preferring instead to glance occasionally at a ship board clock or just relying on our inner clocks to give us an approximation of the time. After all when one is sitting on a mooring ball in Marathon, the only really important time of the day is sundowner time at sundown, and one does not need a watch to figure out when that occurs.

The downside of losing track of time however is that one forgets how long it actually takes to get things done. Since we had a plan to leave after the end of the cruising season, we really didn’t do much to prepare the boat or ourselves for leaving until early April. I had several major boat projects to knock off the list prior to departure, but since none of them would take more 3-4 days at the most, I could afford to wait until April and still have plenty of slack. I was wrong!!

Perhaps in a perfect world where projects unfold as they do on do it yourself TV shows we could have made our schedule, but as we all know perfection is only a goal, it is never a true state of being! Once I got started on my list of refrigeration improvements, solar panel retrofits and electronics rewiring, it became obvious that things were going to take a little longer than previously planned. For example, the refrigeration upgrade, which entailed adding insulation to the inside and outside of the box, turned from a simple glue a piece of foam to the underside of the lid, into a full fledged fiberglass and gel coat construction project. I learned a lot about working with these essential boat building materials, but instead of a couple of days, the project took over a week to complete. The climax of that project, was the injection of closed cell polyurethane into the hull spaces behind the refrigeration box.

Injecting foam looked pretty easy to do in the U-tube instructional video provided by the foam manufacturer, but I quickly found out that watching a professional do it, and doing it myself was a completely different matter. Although I followed the prep stages to the letter, or the picture as in this case, I did not figure that foam spraying nozzles could slip off the end of the injection tubes, causing a geyser of chemically hot, and very sticky green foam to spray all over me and the galley. Thanks to some quick action by Pat, I was saved from becoming a permanently green foam covered bunny rabbit. I wish I could say that all of the stains have been removed but I would be stretching the truth if I did. At least the refrigeration is working more efficiently and I now have a steady supply of cold beer to help me forget.

The plague of  problems continued as I moved into the other phases of our pre-departure projects. When I got to the electronics, it seemed that the pretty pictures in the Raymarine catalogues were stage props. Nothing seemed to work right, until I started over with a new wiring harness. It seems that when you are working with small voltages over very fine wires that the tolerances are very tight. Even small imperfections in wiring can cause electronics to not work, or even worse, work only intermittently. Who knew that Raymarine would design electronics that were only marginally water and humidity resistant?? All it took to overcome the challenge was 150 feet of wire and about 10 days or crawling and cursing!

As we stamped out the gremlins out one by one, our energy levels dropped. It seemed that the end would never arrive, and the smugness that I felt earlier in the year, turned into the same despondency I heard from the sabbatical sailors. Let that be a lesson kids on not gloating at others expense!!. The coup de grace occurred just prior to our setting sail, when Pat and I awoke to find that our dinghy had disappeared during the night. A subsequent search of the shoreline of the harbour by several boats revealed nary a trace. As much as I hated to admit it, it seemed that Threepenny Opera had fallen victim to petty thievery that seems to occur during periods when the harbour is emptying for the season.

Serious Kudo’s need to be given to Drew Robertson and his team at Robertson and Robertson Yacht Insurance in Toronto, because a single telephone call set the wheels in motion. The service received from Robertson was nothing short of legendary. Consider the following time line. Our dinghy was discovered missing on Sunday morning, a claim was filed on Monday AM, by Wednesday PM we had a new dinghy and motor, and by Friday the claim was approved and paid. If it were any other company, we might still be in Marathon trying to get our affairs in order.

For one last kick at the can, the dinghy that arrived so promptly on Wednesday afternoon, turned out to be a lemon. By Saturday, four days after receipt, the transom started to fall off and it appeared that the tubes were in danger of splitting at the seams. Again the vendors came to the party, and agreed to repair the transom to ensure safe operation as they sourced and shipped a new dinghy from their distribution center. While I would have preferred to have avoided the problem all together, I cannot complain about the service we received once the problem was discovered. The new floating chariot has performed wonderfully, so I'm cautiously optimistic about long term satisfaction.

It took an extra 10 days to sort out the dinghy situation from start to finish, which was extremely frustrating, but in the end it gave us time to catch our breath, so that we actually felt ready leave. When we finally put the Boot key channel markers behind us on May 18, 2010 we ready to go both physically and mentally.

We are in the Bahamas! It seemed like it would never happen, but here we are sitting on the hook in Little Farmers Cay. Our tans are evening out, and we have bee supplementing our food supply with fresh fish. In the past 3 weeks we have only spent 3 nights in marinas, and then only because there were no other practical alternatives. The cruising reflexes are starting to rebuild, and while we no longer feel like the neophytes we did when we first left Toronto, we are still firmly in the learning new skills mode.

Good things come to those who wait, and the nights on the anchorages looking at the moon rising out of the water is payment for those with the patience. From here we are heading to Georgetown for a few days in a fancy Four Seasons/Sandals resort to celebrate Pat’s birthday, and then it is back to the wild! I can hardly wait to see the largest breeding flock of Pink Flamingos in the world on Great Inagua Island. Few cruisers make it there because it is so far off the beaten track. It might take us awhile to get there, but Patience is a virtue, and I’ve been taught a very valuable lesson about gloating.

Enjoy the pics and have a great week.

I know I will.


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Anonymous said...

Addison nice fish...they make great table fare...I've been catching Rockfish/strip bass off the back of my sailboat..John

Anonymous said...

Addison nice fish...they make great table fare...I've been catching Rockfish/strip bass off the back of my sailboat..John

Bruce and Esther said...

Bruce thinks that the dinghy dissapearance is a bit suspicious! Some people will do anything to get out of cleaning the bottom! ha ha

Bruce and Esther said...

Bruce says that some people will do anything to get out of cleaning the bottom of their dinghy!

mary and gale said...

you guys rock! must be the rock fish you're eating. great pics. makes us want to go. it looks like a great start to a great adventure. mary and i may end up in toronto in august to see bruce and esther. hope to see you two again in the future but i don't think the waters of boot key are as alluring to you now after the clear waters of the bahamas.

Carol and Helmut said...

Hi P&A, great blog and photos as usual.
Will you be at or the near PCYC anytime soon, it would be great to see you! I guess it was about a year ago that we enjoyed the pleasure of your company on the cruise to Whitby YC.
Would be grand to see you at National YC (Aug. 21) or CBYC (Labour Day weekend)!
Thinking of you, keep well!